Defence minister Rajnath Singh’s statement on Sunday that any future talks with Pakistan will focus on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) has brought the focus back on the disputed region
Mint delves into the history and geography of the region.
How did Pakistan occupy a part of J&K?
The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by King Hari Singh at the time of Partition. While he wanted to remain independent, armed Pashtun tribesmen from Pakistan invaded J&K in October 1947 and occupied a large tract of the province. The king then sought India’s help and signed the instrument of accession in return for military aid. This led to the first direct military conflict between India and Pakistan. Even as the war was underway, India sought intervention of the United Nations on 1 January 1948. UN ordered an immediate ceasefire, leaving a part of J&K that’s now known as PoK on the Pakistan side.
PoK comprises the so-called Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan ceded a part of PoK, called the Trans Karakoram Tract, to China in 1963. AJK has its own constitution, a prime minister and a president, though real power is vested with Pakistan. The administration of Gilgit-Baltistan was handed over to Pakistan by AJK in 1949. It isn’t fully integrated into Pakistan and its constitutional status under that nation remains in a flux. Pakistan has often rejected demands to grant Gilgit-Baltistan the status of a fifth province, fearing it would compromise its demand for resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Where does Aksai Chin come into the picture?
It is a disputed territory between India and China. India claims the border region as part of Ladakh, while China claims the area as part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
What has been India’s position on PoK?
India’s position has been that since the king of J&K signed the instrument of accession with India, the whole of J&K, including PoK, is legitimately an essential part of India. After increasing terrorist violence and Pakistan’s attempts to highlight the Kashmir dispute internationally, both houses of Indian Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution on 22 February 1994, emphasizing J&K as an integral part of India, and that Pakistan must vacate parts of the state under its occupation.
While Singh’s statement shifts India’s position on J&K to offensive from defensive, it also puts China on notice as it seeks to push ahead with its plan for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, India considers CPEC a national security threat as it proposes to pass through Gilgit-Baltistan, thus bringing China’s military power closer to India’s western border. China objected to India classifying Ladakh as a Union territory, saying this “involves Chinese territory", which India has denied.
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